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March 21st, 2006:

Dan Patrick back on the air

Dan Patrick, Republican nominee for SD7, is back on the air thanks to the generosity of his general election opponents.

Federal Communications Commission rules require Patrick to give equal airtime to his opponents if he continues his show after filing for office. But the agency doesn’t get involved if opponents sign a waiver.

“They don’t need our approval,” said Rebecca Fisher, an FCC spokeswoman. “It’s a private agreement, the terms of which are handled between those two parties.”

[…]

Patrick was prepared to be off the air until November if need be, he said, although he planned to contact his challengers — Democrat F. Michael Kubosh and Libertarian candidate Mary Ann Bryan — to seek permission to get back on air. Bryan signed the agreement, although she did not win the nomination of the Libertarian Party at last weekend’s county convention.

“They realize it’s a 73 percent Republican district,” Patrick said. “What you are dealing with is two good people who realize there is no sense in keeping me from making a living. I’m the only one during the (primary) campaign who had to give up his job.”

Umm, isn’t Dan Patrick the owner of KSEV?

In 2000, Patrick and former Texas Senator, Mike Richards (also a Houston talk show host), worked out a management / partnership arrangement with Lieberman Broadcasting, whereby Dan and Mike would manage KSEV as ownership partners. Patrick would serve as VP and GM and together they would build their talk and news audience […]

I’m sure his show gets better ratings with him in the host’s chair and all, but isn’t it a wee bit disingenuous to suggest that he’s got no income stream while he’s off the air? I’m just asking.

Kubosh, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary, approached Patrick about how he could help the radio personality get back on air.

“I never ran for Senate to keep Dan Patrick off the air,” Kubosh said, noting that he decided to run last summer, long before Patrick announced his intentions.

I’ve got no quarrel with the arrangement Patrick made with Kubosh and Bryan. If they’re fine with it, then I’m fine with it. I just don’t understand the poor-out-of-work-me schtick that Patrick is giving here.

“The campaigning is over,” [Patrick] said. “I’m just going to go back to being a talk-show host, and that includes talking about issues from Iraq to Austin.”

May I suggest that you show some gratitude to Kubosh and Bryan for letting go back to being a talk show host by inviting them to join you on the air for some of that discussion? I’d call it a public service to foster that kind of open debate.

Perry to sign executive order for hurricane evacuation plan

You may recall the task force that Governor Perry appointed to study the lessons learned from the Hurricane Rita evacuations, which issued its report exactly one month ago. Today, Governor Perry is expected to sign an executive order to make some of its recommendations happen.

The executive order will require the governor’s Division of Emergency Management to develop a detailed plan for implementing contraflow highways during evacuations.

The division also will be charged with developing a plan for distributing fuel to service stations and making fuel available to motorists along evacuation routes.

[…]

The governor’s order also will:

  • Create a new unified command and control structure within each of the state’s 24 councils of government. Each region will have an “incident commander” to oversee evacuation issues in that area.
  • Instruct the emergency management division to develop a more detailed statewide evacuation and shelter plan.
  • Call for the division to work with local school districts, colleges and universities to identify buses that may be used in some evacuations and develop a system for coordinating their use.
  • Call for the division to develop a statewide evacuation and shelter plan for persons with special needs.
  • Instruct the division to create a computer database of people with special needs so the state will know who and where they are when evacuations are ordered. It also must develop criteria for evacuating people from special needs facilities.
  • Direct the Texas Department of Transportation to prioritize construction that needs to be done along evacuation routes.

I don’t have any particular quibbles with this plan, which drew praise from both Harris County Judge Robert Eckels and Mayor Bill White’s office via Frank Michel. I am curious as to how much some of this is going to cost, and how hard it will be to get the funding in place for each aspect of it. I’ll say again that this is the sort of thing that the current budget surplus is best suited for, since many of these items are likely to be one-time expenditures or have most of their costs up front. I don’t intend my mention of cost as a criticism, I’m just pointing out that securing the needed funds is a multi-step process, and we’re only at the beginning here. I don’t want to be reading stories a year from now about how some of these solutions have not been implemented because the bill to authorize funding for them is tied up in committee because of a dispute over an unrelated side item.

Perry’s executive order will not address the task force’s biggest recommendation — to make the governor the sole decision-maker on when evacuations should occur. That would require a change in state law.

[…]

[Perry spokeswoman Kathy] Walt said Perry might add hurricane preparedness to the special session set to begin April 17, but only if lawmakers first pass a public school finance plan that addresses a Texas Supreme Court order.

“Once there is a bill on his desk addressing that, he’s willing to open it to other issues,” she said.

If the Lege can beat the June 1 deadline for school finance reform, which also happens to be the start of hurricane season, I’ll be impressed. Let’s just leave it at that.

The judges in the court go round and round

Another appeal in the DeLay money laundering case, another opportunity to complain about judicial bias.

On Wednesday, one 3rd Court of Appeals panel will hear Earle’s appeal of a district judge’s ruling throwing out charges against DeLay, R-Sugar Land, of conspiring to violate the state’s election code.

There are still charges pending against DeLay on money laundering that accuse him of participating in a scheme to convert illegal corporate cash into money Republican candidates could use in 2002 Texas House races. DeLay denies any wrongdoing in the case.

The other 3rd Court panel is reviewing an appeal brought by DeLay’s co-defendants, Jim Ellis and John Colyandro. It challenges the legal theory of Earle’s original money laundering indictment brought against the men.

The issues are so similar to the charges against DeLay, that if Colyandro and Ellis win, the case against DeLay could evaporate.

One 3rd Court judge who serves on both panels, Justice Alan Waldrop, was a paid lobbyist for Texans for Lawsuit Reform, or TLR, in 2002, according to Texas Ethics Commission records.

That political committee worked closely with the DeLay-founded Texans for a Republican Majority, TRMPAC, in affecting the outcome of the elections for the Texas House that year.

And during the 2003 legislative session, Waldrop worked with TLR consultant Chuck McDonald in coaching Republican House members on how to pass major tort reform legislation. McDonald has been a grand jury witness in the case involving DeLay, Ellis and Colyandro.

Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, chairman of the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus, temporarily blocked the tort reform bill under House rules because of Waldrop’s coaching. Gallego said Waldrop is “brilliant and a good jurist” but said Waldrop’s ties to TLR make it inappropriate for him to be hearing anything related to TRMPAC.

“There should be the same sort of discussion about Judge Waldrop as there was about Judge Perkins,” Gallego said.

Another judge who is serving on the Wednesday panel hearing Earle’s appeal, Justice David Puryear, gave $250 in 1996 to a Republican candidate who was seeking to oust Earle. At that time, Puryear was an elected Republican county court-at-law judge in Austin.

The candidate, Shane Phelps, had been recruited by the GOP to run against Earle after the prosecutor failed in his effort to convict U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of misuse of office.

[…]

[DeLay defense attorney Dick] DeGuerin on Monday said Perkins’ situation was unique because he was making political donations while sitting on the court. DeGuerin said the actions of the 3rd Court justices all occurred before they took the oath of office as a judge.

“Everybody who becomes a judge has done something in their past. They’ve represented one side or another,” DeGuerin said. “If they took the oath of office and believe in the oath and impartially administer justice, that’s all you can ask for.”

Well, now, that’s in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? You opened this can of worms, Dick, and you were the one pushing a ridiculously broad definition of “bias” when it suited your purposes. If this comes back to bite you in the ass, you have no one to blame but yourself.

The good news, at least for those of us who believe that there comes a time in any litigation to shoot all the lawyers and let the process move forward, is that Travis County DA Ronnie Earle doesn’t appear (yet) to be interested in pursuing a recusal motion. So maybe we’ll have a ruling in a matter of days instead of weeks. I agree with the contention that the ruling on the Ellis/Colyandro motion is more important, since if they win there won’t be any crime to prosecute for all intents and purposes. Since their claim is that money laundering is only illegal if cash is involved and not checks, I have a hard time imagining how any rational judge could side with them, but you never know. Stay tuned.

Report from the METRO meeting on the Universities rail line

Robin Holzer attended the Metro meeting on the Universities light rail line and gives a report on what happened. Read the whole thing, as it’s more detailed than the Chron story (note to Rad Sallee: Robin is a girl, not a boy) or the ridiculously lightweight KTRK piece (give them credit, though – at least they had something), but in particular note this:

[D]istrict City Council members are convening nine smaller meetings in April in neighborhoods all along the corridor. And METRO will start the federally-required public meeting process soon after.

If you’re wondering whether you should participate in this process, you should, and Mayor White explained it best: “You are participating in an important process of building Houston for the next generation.”

Indeed. Attend and be heard.

Roger Owen open letter followup

Meant to blog about this sooner, but you know how it goes: You may recall our open letter to Roger Owen, the nutball anti-gay candidate in CD01. If it wasn’t clear in that post, Vince Leibowitz did email him a copy of it, and he got a response shortly thereafter, which you can see here. Not too surprisingly, he did not deal directly with the substantive issues. Later in the week, the Longview News-Journal did a piece on the letter and the response; Vince has a full copy of it here. It’s not the most incisive political writing you’ll ever encounter, but at least it was something. Finally, Vince notes that there may be an independent candidate running in CD01, if he can muster the signatures. He may be a nut, too, but until we know that for sure, he’s worth checking into.

Patrick Franklin, the State House candidate Owen insulted during the primary, posts his thoughts on the matter. He’s more forgiving than I might have been in his shoes.

Repeat after me: One size does not fit all

I agree completely with Eye on Williamson: This Statesman article on how school districts spend their money, doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. Different districts have different needs, and they’re in a better position to know what those needs are than the Governor. Which is why, once again, that the 65 Percent Rule that Rick Perry imposed by magisterial fiat last year, is so utterly misguided.

Note well:

The study also found greater spending variations when it compared higher- and lower-performing districts among their peers in the same class than when comparing higher- and lower-performing districts to each other.

For example, Palo Pinto, a small district outside of Fort Worth that was rated exemplary by the state, spent less than 50 percent on instruction in the 2003-04 school year because it has higher transportation and utility costs, Clark said.

By comparison, the Hamilton school district near Waco, also rated exemplary that year, spent about 64 percent.

Lower-performing districts tended to spend more on instruction than higher-performing districts.

Different districts have different needs. One size does not fit all. Why is this so hard?

Aiyer on CHIP difficulties

I linked to this Chron article last week on the difficulties many eligible Texans have enrolling and staying enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Yesterday, I got an email from Jay Aiyer, who had a sensible suggestion for how to resolve this, which I present below:

One of the biggest tragedies facing our state is the growing number of uninsured children. The Children’s Health Insurance Program, administered by the state, was supposed to bridge the gap and provide insurance for millions of uninsured Texans. Instead, they have managed to make a bad situation worse. Allowing a private vendor to take hundreds of thousands of kids off the list is not simply incompetence of the highest order, but immoral. The answer is simple, but it requires a different approach.

If you want to enroll low-income children into CHIP, go where the children are.

When I enrolled my daughter at school, I had to provide a myriad of information–name, contact numbers, immunization records, proof of residency, etc. But I was never asked about health insurance. By asking that basic question, a school would then have access to the insurance status of millions of children. Then based on residency and school lunch information, the District would have a ready pool of students who can be determined if they are CHIP eligible. The information would be computerized, and would allow millions of children to be enrolled automatically at their school.

The process is a basic one. But it requires the State using a little common sense and, most importantly, communicating with local entities.

In case you are wondering if this problem could ever really work, it already does, in states like California, North Carolina, Illinois and Washington. Texas needs to join in and save the lives of children accross this state.

Sounds like a good approach to me. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks, Jay!

Tagliabue to retire

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is going to retire in July.

The 65-year-old commissioner has led the league since 1989, when he succeeded Pete Rozelle, and had recently signed a two-year contract extension to complete the television and labor deals.

He finally got that done 12 days ago, finishing the most arduous labor negotiations since the league and union agreed on a free agency-salary cap deal in 1992.

“I believe that now is a positive time to make the transition to a new commissioner,” Tagliabue said in a statement.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported on March 9 that Tagliabue was expected to exercise a clause in his contract with league owners in which he becomes a “senior executive” consultant with a significant compensation package. Tagliabue and the NFL did not comment at the time.

Tagliabue will be available to serve in a senior executive/advisory role through May 31, 2008 once a new commissioner is selected.

Roger Goodell, the NFL’s chief operating officer, and Atlanta general manager Rich McKay are the two leading candidates to succeed Tagliabue. Baltimore Ravens president Dick Cass is considered a dark horse.

The NFL has done very well under Tags’ watch, and that includes their recovery from the 1982 work stoppage, which (thanks in part to a weaker players’ union than that of MLB) has generally avoided labor strife since then. Whoever gets to follow him will have big shoes to fill.

Stina suggests a possible replacement: Condoleeza Rice. That would be…interesting. I can only wonder what her response would be if she came to feel that the NFL may someday be threatened by another league.